CHAPTER 5: Arabian Tunnel
THE SAME DAY, I reported to Conseil and Ned Land that part of
the foregoing conversation directly concerning them. When I told
them we would be lying in Mediterranean waters within two days,
Conseil clapped his hands, but the Canadian shrugged his shoulders.
"An underwater tunnel!" he exclaimed. "A connection between two seas!
Who ever heard of such malarkey!"
"Ned my friend," Conseil replied, "had you ever heard of
the Nautilus? No, yet here it is! So don't shrug your shoulders
so blithely, and don't discount something with the feeble excuse
that you've never heard of it."
"We'll soon see!" Ned Land shot back, shaking his head.
"After all, I'd like nothing better than to believe in your captain's
little passageway, and may Heaven grant it really does take us
to the Mediterranean."
The same evening, at latitude 21 degrees 30' north, the Nautilus was
afloat on the surface of the sea and drawing nearer to the Arab coast.
I spotted Jidda, an important financial center for Egypt, Syria, Turkey,
and the East Indies. I could distinguish with reasonable clarity
the overall effect of its buildings, the ships made fast along
its wharves, and those bigger vessels whose draft of water
required them to drop anchor at the port's offshore mooring.
The sun, fairly low on the horizon, struck full force on the houses
in this town, accenting their whiteness. Outside the city limits,
some wood or reed huts indicated the quarter where the bedouins lived.
Soon Jidda faded into the shadows of evening, and the Nautilus went
back beneath the mildly phosphorescent waters.
The next day, February 10, several ships appeared, running on our
opposite tack. The Nautilus resumed its underwater navigating;
but at the moment of our noon sights, the sea was deserted and the ship
rose again to its waterline.
With Ned and Conseil, I went to sit on the platform. The coast
to the east looked like a slightly blurred mass in a damp fog.
Leaning against the sides of the skiff, we were chatting of one
thing and another, when Ned Land stretched his hand toward a point
in the water, saying to me: